Land use - Drivers & Pressures

What are the related drivers and pressures?

Compaction. The use of heavy machinery in combination with wet soil conditions often results in topsoil compaction and can also affect underlying soil layers. Within the CAP Cross Compliance Regulations, treatment of water-saturated soils is now prohibited. Soil compaction mainly occurs in areas with intensive agriculture and, locally, in other areas due to forest management activities.


Erosion and decline of organic matter. The natural process of soil erosion can be accelerated by inappropriate infrastructure construction - roads, railways, etc. – or unsuitable agricultural practices – leaving steep slopes bare, inadequate crop rotation, excessive withdrawal of organic matter, etc. Agricultural measures against water and wind erosion under the national Agri-Environmental Programme can help to reduce or avoid erosion. As soil erosion mainly affects the topsoil, the organic matter content may be reduced equally. According to Cross Compliance Regulations, farmers are obliged to conserve organic matter in their soils – standards for crop rotation – and to protect them – minimum soil cover.


Soil sealing. Increased soil sealing is due to changes in the standard of living and lifestyles, as well as to associated settlement and transport activities rather than due to population growth.


Diffuse contamination. Contamination from heavy metals is mainly due to long-range transboundary air pollution. Contamination by heavy metals and POPs can also be found in restricted areas originating from industry, traffic and agriculture.


Local contamination. Industrial production and commercial services, 44% of all investigated sites; municipal waste treatment and disposal, 27%; industrial waste treatment and disposal, 15%; and storage, 14%, are reported as the most important local sources. National reports indicate that heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, cyanides and mineral oil are the most common soil contaminants at the investigated sites.


Soil organic matter. A key pressure for soil organic matter is urbanisation and hence the conversion of arable land or pasture into land for building. Figure 4 shows the changes of arable land in the nine Austrian provinces between 2001 and 2008 and can be interpreted as an indirect indicator of land take. It also reveals that the province of Vorarlberg has no loss of arable land in the observed period – explained by its efficient land management policy.

Figure 4 Changes of green and arable land, 2001-2008, in the nine Austrian provinces.
National sustainability indicator LA 1a.
Source: BMLFUW 2009a